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Cities create affordable housing in unexpected places
Caroline Corona   on Tuesday, June 26, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

Across the country, traditional retail spaces are emptying, leaving vacant buildings that are difficult to repurpose and expensive to demolish. Some are reused as recreation centers, churches, and offices, but housing projects have been rare until now.

The Landmark Mall Macy’s just outside Washington, D.C., has found new life as a homeless shelter (New York Times). Carpenter’s Shelter provides 60 beds for families and single adults in Northern Virginia’s high-cost housing market. Once a booming shopping center, nearly all of Landmark’s stores have closed, and the massive structure sits vacant. The current owner plans to tear it down to build a mixed-use development, but it could take years before the project gets approved. The developer agreed to lease a portion of the Macy’s to Carpenter’s Shelter while it awaits completion of its permanent facility.

Motels are another common space in which communities have created affordable housing. Roadside motels are a logical housing option, since they’re already designed for habitation, and like retail, are being challenged by online competitors, namely Airbnb. The former Sundowner Motel in Albuquerque, New Mexico, now includes 71 affordable apartments for families and disabled individuals (CityLab). Another former motel, in Phoenix, now houses veterans for up to six months as they search for jobs and permanent housing (Fox 10).

As cities face growing housing needs and declining demand for retail and motels, these vacant structures represent valuable new housing options.


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